Life’s a horse race – Rennie Ellis and his photobook CUP FEVER

Rennie Ellis' photobook CUP FEVER
Rennie Ellis’ photobook CUP FEVER


“It has been called the biggest party in the world, a carnival of horseflesh, a giant picnic, a bloody circus, a soap opera, an alcoholic rort and an Australian institution…  it grabs hold of the nation like some annual affliction.”       

First lines of the book essay by Rennie Ellis


For around 20 years Rennie Ellis photographed the Melbourne Cup and published in 1987 a selection of images in the modest publication “Cup Fever”. The book format is the same as his now iconic series “Life’s a Beach/a Beer/a Ball/a Parade”.

Photographs in the book are all colour and represent the range of subject matter from the prim and proper celebrity social pages images to Ellis’ documentary reportage style associated with his ability to witness and record the bizarre and outlandish behaviour of the ‘other’ racegoers.

The book is crammed full of images with a loose and varied layout. Photographs relating to similar subjects or activities are grouped together and all are captioned and dated. 30+ years on it’s interesting to note the identities of that time as many now have passed on or now forgotten.

The reproduction quality of the book is uneven in comparison to other of Ellis’ books. This could be from a combination of colour film images made over the time span of the project, the film scans and the selected book printing technology.

To accompany the mages Ellis wrote a text describing various aspects of the Melbourne Cup from its history, the noteworthy celebrities, owners, trainers and of course the horses. Intermingled with the text are quotes about the race from noteworthy commentators.

Ellis’ own stories add humour to the record. One such personal recollection is in the final passage of the text where he recounts getting a ride home from the race in a caterer’s van full of leftovers from the corporate marquees, “I was able to indulge my gastronomic whims working my way through a selection of excellent wines… a fitting way to convalesce from my annual attack of Cup Fever.”

On the first Tuesday of November the Melbourne Cup continues to offer an event that stops the nation that reveals a unique aspect of Australian society – Rennie Ellis’ Cup Fever book covering the period 1967-1986 is a document of a time past that remains visible today in the form of a photobook.


Rennie Ellis' photobook CUP FEVER

Cup Fever Rennie Ellis at the Melbourne Cup

Published by Lothian Publishing Company Melbourne 1987
ISBN 0 85091 292 X
Extent: 80 pages
Format: 215 x 205mm (H) x (W)

First edition soft cover
Pristine condition (unused)

Limited Stock available  $89 from the Rennie Ellis archive



Or online – Google/eBay etc…

Cup Fever GOOGLE prices
Cup Fever GOOGLE prices



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